Rotterdam and Antwerp, there can only be question of a natural competition. It is wrong to say that Holland is making an unfair use of its present frontier. If cases should ever arise in which Belgian interests were somehow compromised, this could only occur in questions of detail, which could easily be arranged between the two countries by mutual consent.
It is true that in past ages the Dutch have made use of their possession of the mouths of the Scheldt in order to injure Belgian commerce. The Peace of Munster in 1648 had as a matter of fact given them the power to do so. But this is an old story, which it would be unfair to bring up against Holland to-day. This state of things came to an end towards the close of the 18* century, and throughout the 19* century the Dutch have put no hindrances into the path of Belgian trade. The old question of the closing of the Scheldt has long ceased to exist. If one wanted to blame the Dutch for such a policy at this distance of time, one would have to attack the entire political and economic system of the 17* and 18* centuries. And it certainly were not the Dutch who applied it in its harshest form. The tolls on the Sound, the English monopoly of colonial navigation and many more examples go to prove that other nations have exercised exclusive rights of this nature.
For over a hundred years all arguments based on this grievance have been without value as far as commercial shipping on the Scheldt is concerned. On the occasion of the separation of 1839 the treaties acknowledged the full and entire liberty of Belgian shipping. For the purpose of establishing Antwerp's liberty of commercial navigation, it is therefore not necessary to revise the Treaty of 1839.
In fact, it cannot be denied that on both the Meuse and the Scheldt contractual rights have been granted to Belgium very much more extensive than would follow from the general "régime" laid down in the principles of the congress of Vienna, and having reference to the riparian states of navigable waterways. The control